Changes in brain glucose metabolism and connectivity in somatoform disorders: an 18F-FDG PET study


Somatoform disorders (SFD) are defined as a syndrome characterized by somatic symptoms which cannot be explained by organic reasons. Chronic or recurrent forms of somatization lead to heavy emotional and financial burden to the patients and their families. However, the underlying etiology of SFD is largely unknown. The purpose of this study is to investigate the changed brain glucose metabolic pattern in SFD. In this study, 18 SFD patients and 21 matched healthy controls were enrolled and underwent an 18F-FDG PET scan. First, we explored the altered brain glucose metabolism in SFD. Then, we calculated the mean 18F-FDG uptake values for 90 AAL regions, and detected the changed brain metabolic connectivity between the most significantly changed regions and all other regions. In addition, the Pearson coefficients between the neuropsychological scores and regional brain 18F-FDG uptake values were computed for SFD patients. We found that SFD patients showed extensive hypometabolism in bilateral superolateral prefrontal cortex, insula, and regions in bilateral temporal gyrus, right angular gyrus, left gyrus rectus, right fusiform gyrus, right rolandic operculum and bilateral occipital gyrus. The metabolic connectivity between right insula and prefrontal areas, as well as within prefrontal areas was enhanced in SFD. And several brain regions were associated with the somatic symptoms, including insula, putamen, middle temporal gyrus, superior parietal gyrus and orbital part of inferior frontal gyrus. Our study revealed widespread alterations of the brain glucose metabolic pattern in SFD patients. Those findings might elucidate the neuronal mechanisms with glucose metabolism and shed light on the pathology of SFD.

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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Fang Xie or Daliang Sun or Fengchun Hua.

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Conflict of interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest regarding the present study. This study was sponsored by the Shanghai Sailing Program (19YF1405300), startup fund of Huashan Hospital, Fudan University (837) to QH; the National Science Foundation of China (81801752), Shanghai Sailing Program (18YF1403200) and startup fund of Huashan Hospital, Fudan University (2017QD081) to XF; Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (Grant number 17411953500) to YG; and Key project of the Tianjin Health and Family Planning Commission (2015KR01) to DS.

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All the participants or their guardians provided informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study. This study and was approved by the institutional review boards of Huashan hospital, Fudan University, and was conducted following Declaration of Helsinki guidelines.

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Huang, Q., Ren, S., Jiang, D. et al. Changes in brain glucose metabolism and connectivity in somatoform disorders: an 18F-FDG PET study. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 270, 881–891 (2020).

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  • Somatoform disorders
  • 18F-FDG PET
  • Brain connectivity
  • Insula
  • Prefrontal cortex